I must admit, despite living in Oregon all my life, it took me entirely too long to do a proper Oregon coast road trip — popping off at each of the quaint Oregon coast towns along the way.
Last spring I finally made time for this “rite of passage” and it turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. My husband and I meandered through each coastal town that lines the beloved Oregon coast and thought it’d be fun to rank the best of the best, from a local’s perspective.
I’m not one for small talk. Read on for everything you need to know about the best Oregon Coast towns this lovely state has to offer — I hope you enjoy!
Quick Tip: Make sure to pack sunscreen! Here’s the sunscreen I’ve used for the past 6+ years, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. You’ll never catch me without it!
Who am I and why can you trust my list of the best beaches on the Oregon Coast?
Fair question. I’m a lifelong Oregonian, so I’ve been exploring Oregon my entire life. My childhood is freckled with memories of weekends spent at various Oregon coast beaches. My mom was in love with the area and would drag us out most weekends in summer.
Admittedly when I was younger the voyage to the coast was anything but exciting. Two hours in the car with my fanatical siblings? I don’t know how she did it. But the effort was worthwhile because now that I’m older I find myself missing the Oregon Coast if I stay away too long.
Now as an adult, I visit the coast at least ten times a year and have discovered a plethora of charming Oregon coast beaches worth a visit.
Where to stay at the Oregon coast: Several readers have reached out and asked about where to stay at the Oregon coast. I typically pop around, but if helpful, this is (by far) my favorite area to stay in while visiting the Oregon Coast.
Northern Oregon Coast Best Beaches
Cannon Beach (most popular Oregon coast beach)
Let’s kick off this list of the best beaches on the Oregon coast with everyone’s favorite: Cannon Beach.
Home to the iconic 235-foot Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach has an appeal few can resist falling in love with. Located a mere 1.5-hour drive from Portland, this is one of the most popular beaches at the Oregon coast.
And no — it’s not a tourist hot spot by any stretch of the imagination. The area swells with locals from all over the state.
Thankfully, there’s plenty to do, ample places to stay, and delicious restaurants to choose from. Kids (and adults) love exploring Haystack Rock at low tide in search of colorful starfish, anemones and hermits.
The birding is top-notch too (you may even see a tufted puffin or two).
But if birding is more your speed, you’re in good hands too. You can find some fascinating species circling the rock. Who knows, you may even see a tufted puffin (or two) and the occasional bald eagle.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited Cannon Beach over the years. This Oregon coast beach is striking! The neighboring state parks (Ecola State Park & Hug Point State Park) are worth the drive.
Unlike most of the other Oregon coast beaches mentioned on this list, Nehalem Bay is … well, a bay. But here’s the thing: it’s so dang calming and beautiful, I’d be doing you a disservice by omitting it from this list.
This soft-sand beach in Oregon stands a mile above the rest thanks to the beautiful grassy dunes. You’ll have an opportunity to relax on the beach with a good book in hand, or stretch your legs by walking the length of the shoreline.
If you’re interested in camping at Nehalem Bay (one of the best campgrounds at the Oregon Coast) make sure to book well in advance. These coveted spots sell out 30-days in advance!
Some folks argue that Seaside is reserved for out-of-town visitors, but I disagree. This is definitely one of the best beaches at the Oregon coast for kids because there’s a plethora of things to keep them occupied.
From the Funland Seaside Arcade to enjoying (way too many) ice cream cones at Zingers Ice Cream. I think it’s a great spot to mention when discussing the best beached on the Oregon Coast for families.
Seaside is a great place for kids because there’s tons of family-friendly attractions to choose from, such as the Seaside Aquarium (where you can feed the seals) and the carousel at Seaside Carousel Mall. History buff? The turnaround at Seaside is designated as the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail — reason alone to visit.
You’re stepping foot in history! If you’re a beach bum, there’s plenty of space to branch out in the sand — you’re bound to see folks playing volleyball and kids coming down from a sugar high (the elephant ears from We’re All Ears cannot be missed!).
Short Sand Beach
Sandwiched between a temperate rainforest to the east and the formidable Pacific Ocean to the west, Short Sand Beach at Oswald West State Park manages to keep its sanity while keeping peace between two intimidating neighbors.
This is one of the most beautiful secluded beaches on the Oregon Coast and it has the summer crowds to prove it!To reach the beach, you’ll need to park the car and hike a short distance through a fragrant forest of Sitka Spruce.
You would think that having to hike to hike in would deter the crowds, but that’s not the case. Short Sand Beach attracts folks from all corners of the state (and then some!) during the warm summer months.
However, even with the crowds, this rugged Oregon coast beach is worthwhile because the landscape is so serene. You’ll find yourself in the midst of sun bathers and surfers, everyone trying to get their fill of the salty air. But who can blame them?
Also worth mention: Short Sand Beach is one of the best beaches on the Oregon Coast for surfing. Expect to see many wet-suit laden bopping heads braving glacial temperatures in search of a wave to catch. The people-watching opportunities are endless, that’s for sure.
If you’d like to stretch you legs, take a walk to Cape Falcon or hike to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain for an irresistible view of the epic coastline.
If your ideal day at the coast doesn’t entail rubbing elbows with hordes of people peppered along the beach, may I suggest Rockaway Beach?
Best described as “a little Oregon Coast town with a big beach,” you may still find some semblance of solitude on this stretch of the coast.
The town is home to less than 1,500 residents, so amenities are limited but the plus side is the lack of crowds.
Quieter than its famous neighbor (looking at you, Cannon Beach) this is one of the best beaches on the Oregon coast for those looking for a relaxing weekend catching up with old friends.
Make sure to swing by Manhattan Beach State Recreation Site while you’re in the area.
If you’re into tide pools, clamming or simply sunbathing you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more peaceful Oregon coast beach.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, Neskowin has been able to skirt the commercialization taking most of the other Oregon Coast beaches by storm. As such, both the town and beach feel less crowded than most other areas along the coast.
Ripe for exploration, this Oregon coast beach is defined by Proposal Rock (which looks like a shorter version of Haystack Rock at Canon Beach) and the Ghost Forest.
The Ghost Forest is comprised of 2000-year-old stumps from ancient Sitka spruce that spanned impressive heights of 200-feet back in their hey day. Meandering past these stumps seems like a blast for kids, which makes this one of the most family-friendly beaches at the Oregon coast.
If you’re in an adventurous mood, strap on your hiking boots and take in the splendor of the vast Pacific Ocean from the Cascades Head trail, one of the BEST hikes at the Oregon Coast.
If you’re looking for a shorter (heart-pumping) hike, climb Proposal Rock. Find the rope hanging down the side of the rock and make your way up for a unique vantage point.
Fort Stevens State Park
Fort Stevens State Park is located near Astoria, Oregon. Perhaps best known as the filming location for The Goonies, Astoria is not technically a beach town because it sits at the mouth of the Columbia River. But, technicalities aside, that doesn’t stop it from being a great place to explore.
The town is chock-full of maritime history, so swing by the Columbia River Maritime Museum to get a better appreciation of the importance of the land. I also suggest visiting Fort Clatsop, a replica of the winter encampment used during the Lewis & Clark expedition, it was created using notes from the expedition journals, how cool is that?
After that, head over to Fort Stevens State Park (one of the prettiest beaches at the coast in Oregon) and swing by Buoy brewery before checking out the most iconic shipwreck in the state — the wreck of Peter Iredale!
Interesting fact about Astoria: Astoria is where the Columbia River spills into the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the most dangerous river bar crossings on the planet where waves can exceed a colossal forty feet in height. Can you imagine?
Best Beaches Central Oregon Coast
Cape Kiwanda, Pacific City
Of all the Oregon coast beaches I’ve grown to love, Pacific City feels the most tranquil to me. But I hope you don’t misunderstand me because I’m not saying there’s nothing to do. On the contrary, pop over to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area and rub elbows with what feels like half of Oregon
There’s a reason this is one of the most visited areas at the Oregon coast. This stretch of the coast is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, especially if you enjoy surfing.
If you find yourself inspired watching the wet-suit laded adventure nuts jump into the freezing see, test your own athletic abilities by climbing to the summing of the towering sand dune. The views from the top are striking and guaranteed to get your heart pumping.
As a reward, treat yourself to hearty pint from Pelican Brewery, one of the best (and oldest!) breweries at the coast.
Let’s chat about Cobble Beach, one of the most unique beaches on the Oregon Coast. While you won’t find smooth sand to lay on, you will find fascinating round cobblestones that line every inch of this beach.
Sitting pretty at the base of the iconic Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Cobble Beach is ripe for exploration. The beach comes alive with vibrant sea life at low tide but is equally beautiful at high tide. Find a smooth section of the shore to park on, and listen to the satisfying sound of rushing waves clashing against the black stones.
Marred by wind-sculpted knotted trees and moss-laden logs, Beverly Beach feels like home to those that grew up on the Oregon Coast. This 5-mile Oregon coast beach stretches from Yaquina Head Lighthouse to Otter Rock. You’ll find beach bums bracing the (sometimes) windy conditions and bopping surfers in search of waves.
My family spent a lot of time at Beverly Beach when I was younger because my mom considered this one of the best beaches at the Oregon coast. As an adult, I can’t say I disagree.
John Dellenback Trails Beach
Whenever I get a hankering for the Oregon coast, it’s always the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area that comes to mind. Don’t ask why otherwise I’d be forced to make up some reason for something that feels so natural.
The expansive dune field is breathtaking! Stretching 40 miles, this is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in the country, and one of the largest temperate coastal sand dunes in the entire world.
Hike the John Dellenback Trail to access the charming Oregon coast beach by the same name. But take note: Reaching John Dellenback Trails Beach is an active task and may prove challenging because some of the towering sand dunes require great effort to pass.
The trail is marked by wooden posts buried in the sand, which make it fairly easy to stay the course.
When you’ve had your fill of beach, explore the natural wonders in the surrounding area. Make sure to swing by the Sea Lion Caves — the largest sea cave in America inhabited by sea lions (spring and winter are the best seasons to visit).
Best Southern Oregon Coast Beaches
Brookings is a sleepy yet charming Oregon Coast town found a mere six miles from the California border. This is the southern-most beach in Oregon and it doesn’t get too many visitors. We’ve seldom run into crowds here, which is surprising because the natural bridges viewpoint is downright jaw-dropping.
Harris Beach typically boasts warmer weather than most other Oregon Coast beaches, making this a great place to enjoy breathtaking views and stretch your legs by hiking the various trails. Harris Beach State Park is a great starting point!
Port Orford Beach
In terms of the most beautiful beaches on the Oregon Coast, you’ll be hard pressed to beat Port Orford Beach. Fighting words, I know, but you’ll know they’re justified within minutes of arriving.
Thankfully the beauty is easy to admire on this hard-packed, level beach. The towering seastacks steal the show, while birds soar above. If that’s not enough, whale spotting is very common at this Oregon coast beach during migrating season.
The best part? Since Port Orford is one of the southern-most beaches in Oregon, crowds aren’t expected. I’ve visited this beach many times and only ran into a handful of folks. Solitude at the Oregon coast? Talk about bliss.
Sunset Bay State Park
Since this Oregon coast beach is located within a sheltered cove, my husband likes to joke that it’s one of the most “real” beaches on the Oregon Coast because you can lay down without worrying about your stuff getting swept up by the wind. He’s clearly new to Oregon, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you’re looking to take a tip, this is the best beach on the Oregon coast for that. The bay is protected on both sides, which leads to calmer water and more gentle (and warmer) swimming conditions.
The beach is small overall, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. It’s hard to think of a better backdrop for sunbathing, picnicking or people-watching.
Bandon, Oregon is filled to the brim with creative locals that have turned this little coastal town into an alluring place for visitors and locals alike. There’s so much to do (and learn), you can easily spend an entire weekend at this Oregon coast town and leave wanting more.
There’s no denying that the beach is the star of the show, though. Monolithic rocks jut directly out of the sea and create a dramatic landscape that defines the rugged Oregon Coast. Thankfully, the beach is easily accessible and there’s plenty of parking provided.
Before popping over to this beautiful beach on the Oregon coast, I suggest starting your day in Old Town Bandon, where fun little shops line the main street. If you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday, make time to explore the old town marketplace where local artisans eagerly share their talents and crafts.
You can’t visit Bandon without taking the Beach Loop Drive and exploring Circles in the Sand. Both are bound to entertain you for hours — which is why this is considered one of the best beaches in Oregon.
Local’s Advice: Face Rock Creamery is a great option for lunch and ice cream. They make great sandwiches and a mean panini. Plus, the cheese is so good! But heads up — the ice cream portions are huge, I suggest splitting a single scoop between two people.
Best things to do at the Oregon Coast
- Go crabbing: Pick up a $10 permit, a crab net, a few chicken legs and spend a day crabbing at the Oregon coast!
- Go whale watching: Whale watching is a year-round activity at the Oregon coast, but your best chance of success occurs from March thru December.
- Explore ALL the lighthouses: There’s 11 lighthouses that pepper the Oregon coast — try to visit all of them! Here’s a complete list of all the lighthouses along the coast.
The Best Oregon Coast Beaches (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick overview of the best Oregon coast beaches, based on firsthand experience.
- Cannon Beach
- Nehalem Bay
- Seaside Beach
- Short Sand Beach
- Rockaway Beach
- Neskowin State Park
- Fort Stevens State Park
- Cape Kiwanda
- Cobble Beach
- Beverly Beach
- John Dellenback Trails Beach
- Harris Beach
- Port Orford Beach
- Sunset Bay Beach
- Bandon Beach
Map of the best Oregon coast beaches
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Until next time,